“Does it seem more real now?” My eyes lingered on the teacher’s desk.
“Sometimes. Other times, I can hardly believe it.” Our son’s hand glided across the row of hardbacks, scooting a few wayward titles back into a neat, organized row.
How was it possible that he was still so young, and yet a lifetime had passed?
The student, now a teacher with the world at his feet, had his very own classroom. Such a different future than the one that seemed predestined only a few short years ago.
Of our time spent in the wasteland when hope was all but extinguished…. (Read Part 1 of our journey here.)
…It started when he was fourteen– somewhere between those carefree years of tender adolescence and the longer stretches of dwindling boyhood.
Tall and lanky with a stature like his daddy, the changes were subtle at first…
Lengthy periods of sleep chalked up to growth spurts.
Periodic mouth ulcers caused by orthodontics.
Pale, translucent skin from too much studying and not enough sun.
But then there were other changes… ones that couldn’t be explained away.
Debilitating joint pain.
Dramatic weight loss.
Stomach cramps, diarrhea, and endless days of vomiting.
And then the crisis that plunged our family headlong into a five-year nightmare.
Life-threatening blood loss.
We dug in our heels and prepared for battle. That first trial lasted two weeks.
A blanket of possibilities unfurled before us.
The gray cloud that hovered over us, the one we couldn’t run from… Cancer.
So much to consider and dwell on in the days ahead as teams of experts and a barrage of tests offered a more definitive diagnosis: Ulcerative Colitis.
While our minds reeled from the news of a condition we’d never heard of, we were also–strangely–at peace.
Okay. Not cancer.
We learned that UC was normally a treatable disease. Not curable without surgery, but manageable. And with surgical intervention (J-pouch procedure), this indeed, eliminated the disease. Because of the finality of such an extreme surgery, however, we wanted to avoid it.
For the next several years, our lives became a blur. We lived in limbo.
Our days, weeks, and months revolved around blood transfusions, I.V. therapy, countless meds, tests, X-rays, and hospitalizations. After a time, it was clear our son’s medical regimen was not working.
Life, as we knew it, forever changed.
I didn’t have a bucket big enough to contain my mama-tears.
Many times as I bathed at night, I’d pour out my grief to God. Under the noise of the shower head, I sobbed to my heart’s content as the water disguised my sorrow.
Why? Why? Why?
And then I pleaded… Please, have mercy!
While UC ravaged our son’s body and relentlessly pursued him with a vengeance, our child never failed to amaze us. He rallied to the battle cry each and every time and fought his way through myriad complications.
His spiral downward in 2005 drove home the realization that without a shift in direction, our son’s life teetered on a very slippery slope.
Surgery became a very real possibility, and one that our son wanted long before my husband and I did.
“I want to live again, Mama. I want to know what life is like outside of hospitals and ERs…”
The first surgery took a little over four hours. The next one, almost three.
He had youth in his favor.
Our son found humor in small things as he recovered. While each day melded into the next, we saw slow, but marked improvement.
Tests, procedures, and hospitalizations decreased.
While our family’s time in the desert was a journey like no other, we refused to bury ourselves in the what could have beens and chose to concentrate on a new way of thinking… Hope in the hard stuff.
For years, our child’s world was four walls, a bed, and a sea of books. Reading and learning opened new worlds to a sick, but bright teen.
It was no surprise when, one day, he announced, “I know what I want to do. I want to be a teacher.”
Fast-forward to today.
Now, as our son stood before me, the light shone in his eyes. Resilience. Faith. Joy. His sail a little battered, but not without mending.
“This first year with my kids was a year of learning. Know what I’m gonna do next year?”
“I’m going to push the students just a bit harder. Something I’ve learned is that kids can generally meet our expectations. It’s when you challenge them to do the hard stuff they often exceed what’s expected. That’s when hope really manifests itself. Know what I mean, Mama?”
Indeed I did.
Some of you are going through “hard stuff” today. Illness, caregiving, job loss, and so much more. It stings when others minimize your suffering or offer vague words of condolence.
I understand, to a degree how you feel. Maybe not completely, but I’ve been through a lot. Seen a lot.
The one thing I’d leave you with is this: Even on our worst days there’s always a thread of hope.
It may come with a few kinks or some big knots.
We might not recognize it for what it is at first.
It may stretch us beyond our comfort zone, challenge what we believe, and grow our character.
And sometimes– it even exceeds our wildest expectations.
What’s something you’ve learned during a hard season?
Often, when we’re challenged by the “hard stuff” we gain new perspective: (Click to Tweet)